The lure of the boutique

By Paul Migliore | 29 November 2016

Working for one of the Big Four consulting giants clearly has its strengths, but for senior level exposure and quality of life, a boutique consulting firm can have a lot to offer.

The consulting world can be a lucrative but demanding environment. Long hours and big bucks is the general public perception of the industry, but there is perhaps more to working as a consultant than meets the eye – particularly when it comes to the plethora of smaller, boutique firms that constitute the bulk of the asset management consulting market.

The nature of consulting work means that boutique firms can bring their own unique culture and attitude to the client. Ensuring that their consultants are happy and challenged by their work translates into better client service and better results – which benefits company and employee.

Here are five steps a boutique consultancy can take to attract the best talent and build a loyal team.

Senior level exposure

One thing that boutique consultancies can offer junior staff is more senior level exposure. We often hear of employees from Big Four firms who rarely, if ever, get to interface with the higher-ranking players at their clients. That interaction is invaluable experience and can help a consultant build his or her career path. In a boutique firm even the more junior consultants can usually meet and learn from these senior clients.

Conversely, consultants at a boutique can often benefit from easier access to the consultancy’s senior management, building their own career trajectory in connection with the ‘wise owls’.

Open culture

In a boutique firm, it is perhaps more attainable to ensure that the consulting team is excited about its work and where you are headed as a firm. Indeed, transparency and open communications are two key pillars of Citisoft’s culture. Our consultants are encouraged to share their ideas, successes and challenges throughout the organisation.

Likewise, management can share the details of the company’s strategy, pipeline and growth on a recurring monthly all-hands meeting or call. By ensuring that employees at all levels feel involved in the company’s direction, it is possible to build a team of engaged and enthusiastic brand ambassadors.

People investment

Any successful consulting firm, be it large or small, must be continually investing in its most important asset – its people.

Standard benefits for professional development include reimbursement for individual training and annual offsite training for all employees, but the journey doesn’t end there. The key is providing consultants with the flexibility in selecting the programmes that are the right fit for their skills, in order to build a well-rounded and diverse team.

For example, at Citisoft our individual and group training focuses on domain and soft skills and both have had positive impacts on our project teams. Examples of our domain training programmes have included: risk analytics, trade operations, data warehousing and vendor-specific training. Examples of soft skills training have included: leadership, emotional intelligence, team building, project management basics, presentation skills, public speaking and problem solving. These training programmes have helped our teams work effectively with one another but also with those on the client side.

At Citisoft, we take this investment one step further and have a dedicated resource manager who helps support our consultants in achieving their career goals. Our resource manager works with our consultants from onboarding through performance feedback through training strategy. By providing a person that’s vested in each consultant’s individual career path, we’re ensuring their success both at the client and at Citisoft.

Compensation and benefits

Of course, attracting the best talent is key to every consultancy’s success, be it big or small. In addition to providing competitive compensation packages, consider offering annual bonuses, spot bonuses and revenue sharing.

Boutique consultancies should routinely survey their employees as well as industry averages to ensure that compensation always exceeds expectations. Many of our consultants have families so offering a great benefits package for medical, vision, dental, and wellness is also a priority for us.

Ensuring a work/life balance

The nature of the consulting industry often necessitates building hours around a client’s needs and all consultants have experience of demanding schedules. Boutique consultancies should strive to ensure that its consultants are never over-utilised by offering them support from management and setting the right expectations with clients.

For example, Citisoft schedules its engagements around our ‘More Nights at Home’ programme, which ensures that our consultants are at the client site three nights per week, giving them more time with their families. This balance is made possible by building out the right team for each project, coupled with careful management of timelines and workload.

In summary, boutique consultancies may not be able to compete with the Big Four in terms of scale but, if they work smart, they can offer a more compelling case to top talent.

By Paul Migliore, Global CEO, Citisoft Group

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